Advent is just days away, and before you know it, Christmas will be here soon after! It's a Holiday season that calls on us to be awake to the very presence of Christ in the world. The following litany calls us to be aware of God who dwells with those who are homeless. We recall also, at this time, the journey of the homeless Holy Family and their search for shelter (Luke 2:7).
The following litany was written by senior-high young people from Newman Congregational Church, UCC in Rumford, Rhode Island. Each year the youth of Newman, along with other youth groups in the Rhode Island Conference, participate in Homeless Awareness weekends. They do a homeless sleep-out during which they keep a twenty-four hour vigil outside, living in the cold of Rhode Island's winter. Essentially, they live and sleep on the street as a homeless person.
While the vigil is held, money is raised and clothing and food is contributed to a local emergency shelter downtown. Staff from the shelter provides opportunities for interactions between the youth and persons who are homeless. The youth return to the Newman church straight from the street. There they lead the congregation in worship. The following litany was written as part of that service. Use this litany in your own congregation or as inspiration to discern how God may be calling your church to be in ministry with those who are homeless during these holy days of Advent through Christmas and Epiphany.
Advent Litany for the Homeless
Presider: Those who are homeless can be seen in doorways, in bus stations, in parks, and on the roadside. They can be found in abandoned buildings, in shelters, and in parked cars. In the hustle and bustle of our lives we walk by them, for they are invisible to us. Let us pray this litany and ask for God's help . . .
People: O God, help us slow down our fast-paced lives and give us the strength to open our eyes to those who are homeless.
Presider: They are the men, women, and children who due to unfortunate circumstances are left without a place to live and food to nourish them.
People: O God, you call us to help them, as best we are able.
Presider: They have stories rich in both joy and sadness to tell. They seem voiceless, because we are too involved in our own lives to take time to listen.
People: O, God, please help us to find the courage to stop and listen to the stories of your people.
Presider: Often they are lonesome, with very few people willing to care for them or to provide them with the warmth they deserve.
People: O God, help us to open our hearts to accept your people whom society has abandoned.
Presider: They are your children. They are similar to us. They too have hopes, dreams, desires, and aspirations.
People: O God, help us open our minds so we may recognize all on the earth as your people.
Presider: These are your people filled with your love and goodness—although often overlooked.
People: O God, open our minds to allow us to see the beauty in all of your people.
Presider: They frighten us because we do not know their stories. They frighten us because deep down we know that we can easily become one of them.
Presider: O God, forgive us for our fears and help us to remember that your light shines through them just as brightly as it shines through any of your children.
This litany was written by senior-high youth from Newman Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, in Rumford, Rhode Island: Kenny Williams, Kaitlin Walsh, Mida McKenrick, Erin Walsh, Kelsey Oliver, and the interim associate pastor, Monica Ouellette. For more information about Newman Congregational's Homeless Awareness Weekend, contact Ruth Hainsworth, Minister of Christian Education, by e-mail at email@example.com.
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